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Emerging Research

In recent years, research into global supply chains has focused on the fields of logistics and operations, information systems, and marketing. What has been largely missing? Analysis of the “people factor” as a source of competitive advantage. But now that gap is being seriously addressed, thanks to a special upcoming issue of Human Resource Management journal. Its guest editors include two Clarkson Human Resource (HR) experts: Dr. Mary Graham, an associate editor of the prestigious journal who proposed the special issue, and Dr. Sandra Fisher, with whom she has collaborated previously in teaching and research.*

“Both of us like to ground our teaching in research data,” says Professor Fisher. “And we both incorporated supply chain issues into the course and noticed the dearth of research on the topics.” In addition to developing more hard research data, they hope to raise awareness of the topic among colleagues elsewhere. The special issue is slated to appear in fall 2009.

The pair believes they are more conscious of supply chain issues than many HR scholars who teach in larger universities. “This is one way in which Clarkson is pretty unique with the size of the business school — and how interdisciplinary our supply chain curriculum is,” explains Dr. Graham. “So for us, it’s a natural fit. But we’ve talked to many colleagues in HR and organizational studies faculties and often they don’t even know what supply chain is.” 

The published findings should not only beef up teaching in organizational studies, but also help supply chain professionals. “Human Resource Management is aimed at academics,” says Professor Graham, “but also speaks to practitioners so they can take the research and use it right away in their everyday decisions.”

The editors identify two main types of linkages between human resource management and supply chains. One involves the application of current HR theories and practices within a firm as it manages its supply chain. The second relates to activities across companies in a chain; for instance, one partner might require others to adopt certain HR best practices, or all might voluntarily reconfigure their practices to increase overall chain efficiency. Having encouraged joint submissions from HR scholars working with researchers in operations management or other supply-chain related disciplines, the editors’ call for papers suggests 15 potential research topic areas for the issue, ranging from retention of skilled supply line professionals to partner relationships.

Professors Graham and Fisher are currently reviewing submissions and both are enthusiastic about the diversity, international flavor, and quality of the papers.

Human Resource Management, which was founded by Dr. David Ulrich at the University of Michigan, has a wide international readership and is one of the most highly respected journals in the field, observes Dr. Graham: “We wanted to come up with a special topic that would make an impact.”

*They are joined by guest editors Dr. Stephan Vachon, HEC Montreal, Canada, a former Clarkson colleague, and Dr. Ann Vereecke, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School and Ghent University (Belgium).